January 22, 2018

Message to Western leaders: stop obsessing about Trump

By Jim Townsend

It may not feel like it, but the transatlantic security relationship finished the first year of Trump’s presidency a little better than where it started. After the drubbing NATO received from Donald Trump during the campaign and in the first few months after his election, it could have been much worse. At least his administration continued the efforts begun by the Obama Administration to deal with Russian aggression in Europe, especially the build-up of US forces in Europe and the strengthening of the NATO deterrent against Russia. And President Trump did finally tip his hat to Article 5. But there can be no argument that the transatlantic security relationship also finished the year bruised and battered to an unprecedented degree, with Allies unsure whether there were still shared values or even a shared world view. There was even less confidence that Trump’s commitment to NATO was sincere.

What Trump’s rhetoric did in his first year was to unleash the two genies that have haunted the US-European relationship for years: for Europeans, that Europe was forever tied to US leadership—for better or worse; and for Americans, that the US was condemned to always carrying the defense load for “deadbeat Allies”. Trump the deconstructor smashed the bottles where these two genies lived, releasing them to cause havoc in the relationship. This has had the effect in Europe of injecting new energy into the quest for a continent decoupled from US leadership. In the US, it wasn’t just Trump’s political base that was satisfied at finally seeing the US grievance publicly, albeit rudely, aired – including the threat of “fix it, or else!”

Read the full op-ed in European Leadership Network.

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